I came across this anecdotal story this weekend (in The magic of Metaphor by Nick Owen):
Thomas Edison took a long time to invent the first light bulb. Rumour has it that he made over 2000 experiments to perfect it.
At the press conference to launch his new invention, a pushy journalist put the knife in: “Say, Mr Edison, how did it feel to fail to make a light bulb two thousand times?”
“Young man,” said Edison, “I didn’t fail to make a light bulb two thousand times; I merely found one thousand, nine hundred and ninety nine ways how NOT to make a light bulb.”
This then reminded me of a Donald Swann and Michael Flanders sketch which I loved as a child (I have it on CD somewhere), which went something like this:.
“Uncle was an inventor. He invented a drink and he called it One Up.
Sadly this failed.
So he had another go and called it 2Up.
This wasn’t too popular either. So he created a new drink which he called 3Up.
This also failed to hit the spot. So he had another go and called it 4Up
But no luck
So on he went.
He called his final drink 6Up.
Then he gave up.